Authors: Roxie Rivera
Tags: #General Fiction
Dimitri fidgeted nervously and drew Benny's amused gaze. He shot her an apologetic smile and forced his legs to stop their anxious bouncing. Sweaty palms flat against his jeans, he glanced around the busy waiting room.
He was vastly outnumbered in the estrogen rich environment here. Most of the women surrounding him were heavily pregnant. A few were barely beginning to show the slightest hint of a rounded figure. He caught the eye of another father-to-be who looked equally as uncomfortable here in the upscale waiting room of the obstetrics practice Benny had chosen.
When he shifted again, the sea foam green chair squeaked. He grimaced at the plush cushion and wondered why this place didn't offer a simple chair like the ones he had recently purchased for his new office. Strong. Sturdy. Firm.
And ridiculously uncomfortable for a pregnant woman…
He considered the line of big tummies across from him. No doubt these wide, cushy chairs had been designed with them in mind. Unfortunately, they made it nearly impossible for him to find a comfortable position with his taller than average frame. God help Ivan if he ever needed to come to a place like this with Erin! He would have to bring his own chair or lean against the wall.
A gleeful squeal from the far corner made Dimitri smile. He leaned back for a better look at the designated play area. He watched another father crawling around on the floor with his toddler son while his wife at nearby and thumbed through a magazine while rubbing her belly. Like Benny, she seemed so serene and calm.
Dimitri glanced at Benny who continued answering the many pages of the questionnaire she'd been given after checking in at the main desk. He envied her relaxed demeanor. At first, she had been the one panicking about their unplanned pregnancy. Seeing the positive test that night of their engagement party had sent her into a full-blown tizzy as she listed all the reasons they weren't ready to be parents.
With one kiss and a few gentle words, he had reassured her that they were absolutely ready to be parents. Five years of friendship and the passionate love they now shared were a perfect foundation for building their family. All the material things she had listed would come in time.
After surviving the attack on their lives and the arson at her bakery, there was nothing they couldn't face together. Besides, he believed she would be an amazing mother. She was selfless, nurturing, kind and so incredibly loving. Dimitri thought of the way she had stood by her brother even when he was at his very worst. If she could handle Johnny, she could handle all that motherhood would throw at her.
Only now, when sitting in this waiting room while Benny filled out her medical forms, did it finally hit him that in a few very short months he was going to be a father. It wouldn't simply be Benny counting on him to love and provide and care for her. No, there would also be a tiny little baby—
baby—who would need him.
The idea of having this new and precious life to cherish excited and terrified Dimitri. He had promised Benny that he would be a good father to their child—but he didn't know the first damn thing about being a good father. He considered the role models he'd known at the orphanage and later in the military. None of those men were the kind who inspired him.
As inconspicuously as possible, Dimitri shifted in his seat and retrieved his phone from his back pocket. He opened the app for his favorite online bookstore and started browsing for books on fatherhood. Somewhat embarrassed that he had to seek advice on something so personal from books, he tilted his screen and glanced around nervously. Benny remained focused on her paperwork and the people closest to him were engrossed in their magazines or phone screens.
As he read the reviews for the different books, he added the ones that looked the most promising to his shopping cart. After purchasing them with a tap of his screen, Dimitri discreetly tucked his phone back into his pocket. The four books he had ordered would keep him busy for the next few weeks.
"You're wasting your money."
Benny's softly spoken words interrupted his troubled thoughts. He glanced at her and caught that mischievous smile of hers that he loved so much. Obviously he hadn't been very good at hiding his book browsing. When she clasped his hand and gave his fingers a reassuring squeeze, he was reminded of how incredibly lucky he was that she had agreed to marry him. Her support and unconditional love meant the world to him.
The tips of his ears grew hot with embarrassment. "It can't hurt to expose myself to new ideas and information."
"You don't need those books, Dimitri. You have good instincts. You're going to be great at this."
Her unshakeable belief in him bolstered his confidence. He dipped his head until their noses were almost touching before whispering, "Have I told you how much I love you today?"
The blush coloring her cheeks betrayed her memories of their early morning tryst. "I think you may have said something about that earlier but I was a bit preoccupied at the time. I don't think I heard
how much you love me."
He claimed her mouth with a chaste kiss. "I'll have to remind you when we get home."
His gaze jumped to the nurse guarding the doorway to the exam area. In a few short weeks, Benny would be Miss Burkhart no more and they would finally share a last name.
When Benny stood, Dimitri swiped her purse and water bottle from the floor because her hands were full with the paperwork and clipboard. She smiled up at him with a bemused glint to her dark eyes but didn't try to stop him from coddling her. In the three weeks since realizing they were pregnant, she had learned to accept his overprotective gestures without argument. With all of the work stress Benny faced, he was determined to coddle her as much as possible when she was within arm's reach.
He placed his hand against the small of her back and guided her toward the nurse wearing bubblegum pink scrubs. They followed the nurse into the triage area. Like the lobby, this back area of the practice was nicely decorated and presented a warm, welcoming feel.
As Benny chatted with the nurse, Dimitri scanned the posters promoting breastfeeding and car seat safety. He realized he didn't know the first thing about nursing or how to install a car seat. The list of things he needed to learn before the baby's arrival seemed to be growing non-stop.
After Benny was weighed and had her blood pressure and temperature taken, they were taken to a spacious room. He marveled at the coziness of the exam room compared to the ones at his doctor's practice. The potted plants and the screen for undressing were a nice touch. Snapshots of a beach fixed to the ceiling over the exam table confounded him at first. Then it occurred to him that patients might like something pleasant to focus on while a doctor examined such intimate parts.
They took their seats and the nurse glanced over Benny's paperwork before asking more detailed questions about her medical history. When the nurse finished with Benny, she turned toward him and started lobbing pointed questions his way. At first, the answers came easily but as the nurse began asking about his family history, Dimitri recognized that he was at a significant disadvantage.
"I have no idea about my mother or father's medical histories." That old sensation of abandonment crept into his chest. Only the feel of Benny's small hand gripping his kept Dimitri from becoming instantly defensive as he normally did when his childhood was a subject of discussion. "My father was in the military so I assume he was relatively healthy but he eventually drank himself to death. My mother was young when she died. Only twenty-three," he added, thinking to himself that Benny was so close to that age.
"Do you know the cause of her death?"
"She had complications from tuberculosis. I think," he added uncertainly. "I was only able to piece that together from memories. It might have been something else entirely."
"Okay." The nurse remained cheerful. "Your situation isn't all that uncommon." She stood up long enough to grab some pamphlets from a shelf on the wall. "You might consider having some genetic testing done, for your own peace of mind."
A sense of foreboding weighed down his shoulders. What kind of awful things might lurk in his DNA? He glanced at Benny's belly. What if he'd given their baby some terrible genetic disease?
"What about the baby? Can we test the baby now?"
Benny shot him a strange look. Her hand moved over her belly in a protective gesture. "Even if the baby isn't perfect—"
"No," Dimitri interjected quickly and gently before she got the wrong idea. "That's not at all what I meant." The tension eased from her face. "I thought more information would be useful, just in case we need to prepare for specialists."
"Oh." Benny seemed to mull it over. "Well—as long as the tests aren't invasive or dangerous for the baby."
As the nurse discussed the options for first trimester testing, Dimitri tried to suppress the quiver of panic trying to invade his chest. He had no idea what sort of chemicals or toxins he'd been exposed to while serving in the military. He had been a young boy during the Chernobyl disaster and no doubt he'd been dosed with more radiation than most men American men his age.
Suddenly, he felt terribly irresponsible. Why hadn't he done all this genetic testing on himself
making a baby with Benny?
"So I'll step out for a few minutes while you get changed and when I come back, Dr. Acevedo will be with me," the nurse said as she gathered up the chart and paperwork and headed for the door.
Dimitri realized he had missed almost all of the conversation Benny had been having with the nurse. When they were alone, Benny turned in her chair and cupped his face. "Stop worrying, Dimitri."
He exhaled a deep breath and touched his forehead to hers. "Please don't think that I wouldn't love our baby if something was wrong."
"I don't think that. I know you like to be prepared." She kissed his cheek before sliding out of her chair. "But I think you're worrying about nothing."
"I hope that's true." He
that was true.
Benny picked up the gown and slipped behind the changing screen. When she stepped out a few minutes later, he had to hide his smile. The one-size fits all gown had definitely not been designed with someone so short in mind. "Sweetheart, I think you put that on backwards."
She shook her head. "No, these gowns are supposed to open in the front so the doctor can do a breast exam."
"Oh." Apparently this was another one of those mysteries of the feminine realm. "Do you need help getting up there?"
"There's a step."
Even so, he crossed the floor to help her up onto the exam table. She rolled her eyes at him but giggled when he took advantage of the gaping front of the gown to cop a feel. "Dimitri!"
"What?" He caressed her naked breast as she glared up at him. "You're the one teasing me."
"Whatever!" She said with a little laugh and playfully smacked his hand. "Behave yourself. We have to come back to this office, like, fifty times between now and the delivery. I'd rather us not have the reputation of being the couple that got caught getting frisky in an exam room."
"I don’t know." He brushed his mouth across hers. "It might make these visits more interesting."
Before she could finish her thought, someone knocked at the door. A second later, the nurse stuck her head inside the room. "Ready?"
Dimitri stepped aside and glanced back at the nurse. "Yes."
Dr. Acevedo, a tall, fit doctor with dark hair coiled into a no-nonsense bun, followed the nurse into the room. She dragged a portable ultrasound machine with her. After a quick exchange of handshakes and introductions, Dr. Acevedo got down to business.
He made sure to stand out of the way as the doctor and Benny chatted about her pregnancy symptoms. She had been incredibly nauseated but small meals and ginger ale seemed to be helping. Guilt gripped Dimitri every time she dashed to the bathroom. Holding her hair while she retched wasn't the most romantic thing in the world but it helped him feel like he was doing something for her. After all, it was his fault she was in this predicament.
"You should see your symptoms ease up some as you get out of the first trimester," Dr. Acevedo said as she palpated Benny's chest. "The soreness here and the nausea should dissipate. You've lost less than five pounds since discovering you were pregnant so I'm not overly concerned. You seem to be experiencing a normal range of morning sickness."